What to see in Morocco: the 13 essential visits

what to see in morocco

Morocco is that magical and surprising country that never leaves indifferent those who visit it. The African country closest to Europe, a union between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, capable of passing from the Atlas Mountains to the Sahara Desert. Morocco hides cities with medinas that captivate the visitor, surprising nature, and rich heritage. Discover in this article, as an introduction, what to see in Morocco and start preparing for your next trip.

   Morocco is a millenary kingdom with important cities and an unquestionable historical footprint. Four of them are the so-called Imperial Cities, which are nothing more than the different capitals that the country has had at some point in its history. To visit them is to enter fully into the trajectory of this kingdom over the last centuries. Of course, all of them are the most beautiful cities in Morocco.

  1. Marrakech, the liveliest city
  2. Fez, the cultural capital
  3. Meknès, the beautiful unknown
  4. Rabat, the capital of Morocco
  5. The Mosque of Casablanca
  6. Tangier, on the Strait of Gibraltar
  7. Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou
  8. Deserts of Zagora and Merzouga
  9. Chefchaouen, the blue village of Morocco
  10. Essaouira (Essaouira), surfing mecca
  11. Ouzoud waterfalls
  12. Volubilis, the ancient Roman city
  13. Todra and Dadès Gorges

Marrakech, the liveliest city

Marrakech is an essential city on any trip to Morocco. Founded in 1062 by the Almoravids, it was the capital between 1071 and 1244, as well as between 1511 and 1554, during the Almoravid, Almohad, and Saadid dynasties. Marrakech, the Red City, is the southernmost of the great Moroccan cities. Far from Europe, inland and close to the Sahara, a privileged place of passage for Berber caravans and a military camp that ended up being the capital.

   But if Marrakech is known for something, it is for its Medina. The heart of the city, a World Heritage Site, is a myriad of labyrinthine and bustling streets where merchants, artisans, mosques, palaces, and walls are concentrated. Getting lost in its narrow streets is the best way to get to know this incredible place.

   Marrakech has many other attractions, such as the Bahia Palace, the Koutoubia Mosque, and the Menara Gardens. In short, by visiting Marrakech you will understand why for many people it is the most beautiful city in Morocco.

what to see in morocco

Fez, the cultural capital

  In the heart of Morocco, on the road linking Rabat and Algiers, lies Fez, the so-called cultural capital of the country. Fez was the capital of Morocco on several occasions, between the 9th and 10th centuries, between 1244 and 1554, several times in the 17th century, and between 1727 and 1912, when Rabat took over.

   To visit Fez you will need two or three days, as it has an important legacy declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Undoubtedly, its main reference is the medina Fez-el-Bali, a large medieval neighborhood of the ninth century that has a network of 9,000 streets where getting lost is the most common. It is considered the largest pedestrian area in the world.

   The attractions of Fez are countless: the Al Karaouine mosque, the Attarine Madrasa, the Royal Palace, the various souks, the city gates, and the fountains … In addition, from Fez, you can enter the desert of Merzouga to spend a night in a tent.

what to see in morocco

Meknès, the beautiful unknown

Meknès, or Meknes, is 60 kilometers west of Fez, on the way to Rabat. It was the capital between 1672 and 1727, which left an architectural and urban legacy that has earned it the declaration as World Heritage Site. Responsible for the rise of the city was Sultan Mulay Ismail, who established the capital in Meknes and ordered to design of a city at will. 40 kilometers of wall, palaces, gates … The mausoleum with the tomb of Ismail is here.

   Unlike the other imperial cities, Meknes is quieter. Its medina is much more digestible for the visitor than those of Marrakech or Fez. But if there is something that makes an impact, it is the Bab el-Mansour Gate, dating from 1732 and considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Meknès will surprise you.


Rabat, the capital of Morocco

Rabat is the capital of Morocco since 1912 when the French Protectorate of Morocco began. Although it is the capital of the country and has the attraction of the Atlantic Ocean, Rabat is less touristic than the other imperial cities.

   Rabat combines antiquity and modernity. Its main monument is the Hassan Tower, a 12th-century minaret that was destined to be the tallest tower. Next to it, is the mausoleum of Mohammed V, the royal pantheon of white marble where lie the remains of Mohammed V and Hassan II, father of the current king. The Kasbah of the Udayas and the medina, with its famous ramparts, are also two places of special interest in the Moroccan capital.


The Mosque of Casablanca

It is probably the most majestic mosque in Morocco. The Hassan II Mosque of Casablanca is impressive for its size, being the second largest in the world after Mecca. It has a 200-meter minaret with a laser beam pointing toward the holy city. Inside the temple, a hall with a capacity for 20,000 worshipers and a retractable roof that allows a view of the sky.

   The Casablanca Mosque (1993) is the only one in Morocco that allows entry to non-Muslims, a magnificent opportunity to enter such an important place for Islam. Its location, close to the sea, is striking.

Casablanca Hassan II Mosque

Tangier, in the Strait of Gibraltar

Tangier is the northernmost city of Morocco and therefore the closest to Europe. In the middle of the Strait of Gibraltar, Tangier has been a coveted city throughout history and has been in the hands of different empires and European countries.

   Its proximity to Spain, with an international port and airport, and its long coastline, make Tangier a tourist city with multicultural touches, thanks to its European past. Among its essential landmarks are the Great Mosque, the medina, 9 April Square, Cape Espartel, and the Grottoes of Hercules.


Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou

One of the most magical places in Morocco is the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou. A ksar is a fortified city, common in the southern part of the country. Inside, Ait Ben Haddou hides labyrinthine streets and buildings of traditional materials such as adobe, wood, or straw. It is also an icon of cinema. Scenes from countless films and series, such as Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, or Game of Thrones were filmed there.

   Passing through the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou is also a great idea to make some of the most popular routes, such as the Route of the Thousand Kasbahs, the traditional Moroccan adobe construction so common in this area.

what to see in morocco
Ait Ben Haddou kasbah

Zagora and Merzouga Deserts

   Taking a trip to the desert, or even sleeping in the desert, are two plans that anyone exploring Morocco should put on their bucket list. Without having to go all the way to the distant Sahara, from Marrakech there are two easier possibilities to experience the feeling of the sands: the deserts of Zagora and Merzouga.

   The Zagora desert is about 360 kilometers from Marrakech and has a rather rocky character. The Merzouga desert is 560 kilometers from Marrakech and has large dunes, some over 150 meters high. Being farther away, going to Merzouga is a three-day excursion, between journeys and nights there. In addition to sleeping, in both, you can make camel or quad tours.

what to see in morocco
Merzouga desert

Chefchaouen, the blue village of Morocco

Located in the interior of the northern part of Morocco, in the foothills of the Rif, the small town of Chefchaouen or Chauen preserves the medieval appearance of its streets at the foot of the mountains. This town belonged to the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco and part of its population speaks Spanish.

   Chefchaouen has earned the nickname of the blue village of Morocco, thanks to its blue houses, which give a picturesque air to the city, and its charming medina.


Essaouira (Essaouira), surfing mecca

   Essaouira or Essaouira is a historic Atlantic port that has become a windsurfing mecca thanks to its majestic beaches. However, the city retains its historical legacy and its port charm, with a beautiful medina much more relaxed than that of the big cities.


Ouzoud waterfalls

   Not far from Marrakech hides a magical place. Spectacular waterfalls of more than 100 meters of fall bring real life to this area of the High Atlas. The Ouzoud waterfalls are the highest in North Africa, a spectacle of water and sound that leaves the visitor who comes here absorbed. In addition, it is possible to bathe in the river, something very grateful in the summer months.

Ouzoud waterfalls

Volubilis, the ancient Roman city

Morocco’s historical legacy is of such caliber that it is even possible to find important Roman remains. The most famous site is that of Volubilis, an ancient Roman city located 20 kilometers north of Meknès, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

   Although half of the site remains unexcavated, the ruins of Volubilis allow admiring the remains of the forum, the baths, the temple of Jupiter, the spectacular Arch of Caracalla, or the impressive mosaics, undoubtedly the jewel of the ancient city.


Todra and Dades Gorges

Another of the magical places that can be visited in Marrakech is the Todra and Dades Gorges. Both are among the most spectacular landscapes of Morocco. Two gaps split the High Atlas creating two striking valleys with vertical walls of tens of meters. In fact, the Dadès Gorge is one of those dizzying roads, whose winding curves are synonymous with attraction for lovers of driving.

   If this introduction to the best of Morocco has whetted your appetite, continue to check out our travel articles on the wonderful Alawite country: tips for traveling to Morocco, what to buy, what to eat, and many other ideas.

Todra and Dades Gorges

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